Club Review: Tina Scariano’s “Feels Like Home”

August 9, 2021 | By | Add a Comment

Tina Scariano

Tina Scariano has a terrific voice with a pleasingly effective vibrato.  It would not be out of the realm of possibility to imagine her one day being feted like the artists she featured in Feels Like Home, her new show at The Green Room 42.  Therefore, it was most disappointing that she chose to present an evening of re-creations of  ‘70s songs by singers she liked,  rather than bringing her own interpretations to the material.  It was like finding a cover band with a really good lead vocalist, or an evening of live karaoke with a particularly good bar patron.  The  selections were great, if a bit expected (there were no deep cuts or surprises in this show),  and they fit her voice beautifully, but once a song was established in the first line or two, it was somewhat enervating to know exactly how it was going to be sung. The songs were such carbon copies of the originals that comparisons with their iconic predecessors were inevitable—a circumstance that any fledgling singer should try to avoid. 

Linda Ronstadt is Scariano’s favorite singer, but rather than scatter her hits throughout the evening,  she opens the show with five Ronstadt songs in a row, lumped together in a way that threw the show off balance.  In between were some enthusiastically delivered comments and introductions, but here again there were no surprises in the information.  Anyone with even a passing familiarity with any of the artists included would know the details of her patter, which were more Wikipedia than personal revelations. The musicians, as good as they were, became hemmed in by this approach to the material with no opportunity to explore the melody or add anything new in the arrangements.  Each choice came in at a radio-friendly three minutes or so.

Ronstadt-mania gave way to James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” but the duplication remained. There was some personal connection and interpretation established in Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” (Tom Fogerty) where she slowed down the tempo and told the story to haunting effect.  But then it was back to echoing originals, with stops at John Denver, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell before getting to two more Ronstadt standards.  I had hoped that maybe the title song by Randy Newman might have opened her up to a bit of a personal statement as she closed the show, but alas, it was not meant to be.

I never got a sense of the person to whom she was singing in any given song, and even worse, I never got a sense of who, she was, other than being a big fan of the hits of her youth.  

There were some beginner mistakes to be ironed out as well—she kept referring to the audience as made up of friends and family who knew her well. A singer should always perform as if the room is filled with strangers who know nothing about her; otherwise, people who have no connection to the performer feel left out.  She kept mentioning that she had just learned to play guitar over the pandemic shut down, but her hesitant, sometimes bumbling playing and apologies, lost their innocent charm with repetition.  Also, it is unwise to have pre-show recordings by some of the singers being sung that night. She should not want the distinctive sounds of the original singers in the ears of the audience. 

Tribute shows like this often make me angry at the lack of individuality and the emphasis on the original recordings rather the songs themselves.  In the case of Feels Like Home, it made me sad at the squandering of Tina Scariano’s obvious talent.  I would suggest that she work on a show of songs that she doesn’t know well.  It may give her the freedom to develop her own voice, working with an inventive, empathetic music director, and a director to help her storytelling and phrasing.

***

Presented at The Green Room 42 on July 25.

Category: News / Reviews / Commentary, Reviews

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Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”

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